As the Jets work their way farther into another forgettable season, the focus of football in New York has once again turned to who should be the starting quarterback.
The debate now includes several Jets players who have pushed back at the pleadings of some media members and many fans who would like to see the inspirational Tim Tebow taking over for Mark Sanchez.
But there’s one thing wrong with all this talk of who should get the start, Sanchez or Tebow, Sanchez or Tebow — people keep talking about quarterback ability.
Why is it news that Tebow isn’t a good quarterback? Why is it important that a quorum of New York’s players are agreeing with the assessment? Why is it a big deal when people say Tebow can’t make basic throws or run an NFL offense effectively?
Tebow has never been a good NFL quarterback, and it takes some of the Big Apple’s biggest revisionist scholars to argue that he’s even been a quarterback at all. He couldn’t throw coming into the NFL, he could barely throw once he got to Denver, and he hasn’t been allowed to throw in New York.
What Tebow has been is a great player — especially in college football, and even in the NFL.
Tebow has shown that he knows how to make plays and can be a great leader. And in the Jets quarterback debate, that is where the work needs to be done. Not: Is Tebow a good quarterback, or a better quarterback than Sanchez? Let’s try: Can Tebow be the effective player and leader he was in Denver?
That’s why the Jets mutiny of this week is such a big deal. While Tebow’s ability to quarterback a team is a frivolous debate left alive only by wishful thinkers, the question of whether he has the intangibles — leadership, charisma, being a “winner” — is still wide open and largely why he was scooped up by the Jets.
The only problem is that, just as the Jets need precisely that version of Tebow, they’ve lost the camp that could benefit from Tebow in that role.
The Tebow who produced magical results in Denver did it not only because of his limited football abilities but also because he united the team. He even got players who seriously doubted him to believe that the team could win and overcome, even if they didn’t love him. The Broncos were winning games they had no business competing in, behind a guy who lifted their spirits and kept the team around long enough that his more talented teammates could capitalize.
But in New York, Tebow has never had a chance to be that leader. Instead, he’s been the pesky backup, the source of division, the Wildcat wonder, the distraction. He’s been the symbol of everything he’s supposed to be but has gone out in practice every day and made his teammates shake their heads. These Jets can see no connection between the player of media hyperbole and the one who can’t keep up with them on the field.
In a season where the Jets desperately need a Tebow like the one who reigned in Denver, they’ve instead gotten the backup version of Tebow, which is just depressing. And it’s no wonder that, at the precise time the Jets could use a Tebow, that’s the last thing they want.
The Jets make so many mistakes organizationally, so it’s difficult to keep whacking away at them with criticism. But seriously, what were they thinking in bringing in Tebow? The way to make the most of Tebow was to bring him in as a savior, a role he metaphorically and literally has filled in all his moments of greatness.
Instead, the Jets brought in Tebow as a sideshow, and that’s exactly what he’s become. His status has festered on a team that needed him to be 100 percent Tebow when he showed up, but to whom he has becoming a diminishing sore. As each week passes, they see more and more that he has nothing to offer them football-wise — and, if he’s not starting, rallying them and leading them to greatness, he has nothing to offer them team-wise, either.
Tebow is not a plucky underdog as much as he is an energetic leader who has to be given some rope to run out ahead and pull his team along behind him. The Jets gave him no rope, and instead they’ve set up a situation where his teammates not only doubt his skills (both tangibles and intangibles) but also are just sick of him and all the attention he gets.
The debate will continue, comparing Sanchez’s arm to Tebow’s hiccup of a throwing motion. But that’s secondary to the greater issue here. If Tebow starts for the Jets, what Jets will he be leading? If Tebow directs the offense, who will be playing hard to come through for him? If Tebow gets thrust farther into the spotlight, will there be a mass mutiny on a team that is fast losing a will to win?
Tebow is a great player, but he rarely had a chance to show that in New York’s mess of a setup — and now it looks like he’s lost the chance to prove himself with his teammates, too.